Etihad Bringing Back Airbus A380s – With The Residence And First Apartment!!

Etihad Airways parked its 10 Airbus A380s during the pandemic, and its CEO said they’d likely never fly again. That’s sad because their best passenger experience was on this aircraft. Indeed, many airlines had their best seats and amenities on the world’s largest passenger jet.

Earlier in the month Etihad’s CEO reportedly said it’s “possible the aircraft will fly again once more under the Etihad brand but only if certain market conditions are met.”

He offered that any plan to bring back the Airbus A380 would only be temporary, a “stopgap” until the Abu Dhabi-based carrier takes deliveries of new widebody aircraft currently on order from Boeing and Airbus. They recently revealed the new business class seats they plan to put on Airbus A350s with no first class cabin.

Now there are reports that,

  • Etihad has offloaded four of its Airbus A380s, though it’s unclear to whom – and whether those will be operated with Etihad’s outstanding seats – this will be exciting to watch.
  • And will return 6 to service
  • While sending its narrowbody Airbus fleet to joint venture Air Arabia Abu Dhabi to take over regional flying

This means it should again be possible to use American AAdvantage miles to book one of the best products in the sky. It’s unclear whether the A380 will return to New York JFK or to London Heathrow and to Paris.

However with narrowbodies going to a differnt carrier, which is not an AAdvantage partner, there will be fewer connecting options to travel within the Mideast and even India on Etihad. You’ll be limited to widebody routes that will be retained by Etihad itself. That makes transferring points into Etihad’s program from Amex, Citi or Capital One more interesting.

I’ve flown Etihad’s First Apartment almost as much as Cathay Pacific first class over the years. It’s been my favorite use of American AAdvantage miles, and of course Etihad is both an American Express and Citibank transfer partner.

It’s been my go-to for trips to the Maldives (5 of my last 6 were on Etihad). I’ve visited the Mideast many times, alternating between Etihad and Emirates. And I’ve even chosen Middle East stops enroute to Australia because First Apartment redemptions for both long haul segments made the journey so easy.

Etihad introduced its ‘Apartment’ – really a room that has a separate seat and bed, and of course a shower available in the cabin for first class passengers – when they took delivery of their first Airbus A380. At the time it was arguably the best first class in the world, though now some prefer Emirates new first suite, the new Singapore Airlines A380 Suites, or ANA’s new first class.

Part of the divider between adjoining Apartments slides down, and passengers traveling together could this ‘be in bed beside each other’ which was special.

Despite advances at other airlines it remained a top 5 product in the world and it was regularly available using miles for routes like New York JFK – Abu Dhabi, Paris – Abu Dhabi, and Abu Dhabi to Sydney and Melbourne. Using American miles you did have to know a booking trick, and availability often only showed for flights to the U.S. when searching roundtrip awards originating in Abu Dhabi on the Etihad website (but you’d book by phone anyway).

What’s nuts is that the First Apartment wasn’t even Etihad’s best product. The ‘Apartment’ in the first row on the left side of the cabin was turned into “The Residence” by combining it with what some A380 operators used as a dead space or lounge space, giving it not just a sitting area but also its own bathroom/shower and separate bedroom.

Residence guests had their own butler, who was Savoy Hotel-trained in the U.K. and had to wear butler attire when serving the Residence. Etihad would customize what they would have on board for a Residence guest based on advance requests. When no passengers were booked into the Residence the butler acted as a flight attendant on board.

Even with 6 Airbus A380 appearing to be on the horizon for a return

Aside from the A380 though and while they may have eliminated first class chefs their first class suites on the limited number of planes still offering those remain fairly spectacular.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Since Etihad changed their website do you know how to identify guest award space? It’s really unclear now. Is the only solution to just speculatively call the Australia AA call center and ask them to check?

  2. @DMNYC that would be incredible if true about Etihad space but all I see is Qatar award space on aa.com.

  3. Surprisingly I find Etihad space on Aeroplan more often than I do on AA. And that’s with no status on Air Canada or Star Alliance – yet Exec Plat with AA.

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